Friends can disagree says Obama on Israel

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Friends can disagree says Obama on Israel

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President Barack Obama has rejected claims that US-Israeli relations are in meltdown over proposed new settler homes in East Jerusalem.

Israel caused consternation in the White House when, during a visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden it announced plans to build 1600 new dwellings.

Obama said: “Look, Israel is one of our closest allies and we and the Israeli people have a special bond that’s not going to go away.

“But friends are going to disagree sometimes and I specifically sent Vice-President Biden to Israel to send a message of support and reassurance about my belief that Israel’s security is sacrosanct and that we have a host of shared interests. There is a disagreement in terms of how we can move this peace process forward.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu has also sought to play down the settlement issue while acknowledging it has not been helpful to the peace process.

Nethanyahu has been holding talks with European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton who is on a tour of the region.

She has been urging the Israelis and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

Today, Ashton is scheduled to meet Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as well as visiting the Gaza Strip.